Road Routes

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"VENA DEL GESSO RIDGE" RIDE LOOP


76.3 kilometres – Difficult
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The Valletta pass, at an almost constant incline of 10%, is the greatest obstacle in this route which includes four other ascents

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A geological embrace that encircles almost the entire Vena del Gesso (chalk vein) ridge, tracing a full circle which is also a journey six million years back in time, during which the ups and downs of the hills recall the rise and fall of the sea level, which has repeatedly submerged and uncovered Mount Mauro and the other peaks.

The route begins in the direction of the north slope of the ridge and then, after leaving Riolo Terme behind, heads towards Brisighella through the Calbane pass (3.6 km with an average incline of 5%). The climb is interspersed with long, flattish stretches (the [[Grotta della Tanaccia]] cave can be accessed from one of these), during which you can admire the side of the ridge that gently descends towards the plain, now covered with woodlands and home to wolves, deer, wild boar, roe deer, foxes, porcupines and wild cats.

It is only upon reaching [[Brisighella]], by climbing once again up through the valley towards Fognano, that the leap back in time becomes evident. However, in order to perceive it, you must first conquer the Valletta pass, 2.6 km at a 10.3% average incline, with highs of 13%. A short but relentless climb from the point where the road rises sharply; indeed, this was a stage in the 2015 Giro d’Italia race, and even then the group was dispersed for the entire ascent. The descent towards Zattaglia, along the less steep slope of the ridge, opens up a dramatic view of [[Mount Mauro]]. This giant of the Vena del Gesso ridge looms, at a height of 515 metres, isolated above the valley, just concealing behinds its outline the southern, more rugged and rocky, section of the ridge.

The ascents of mounts Albano (4.7 km at 5.9%) and Prugno (5.6 km at 5.9%), the first towards Casola Valsenio and the second from there to Fontanelice, are bicycle-friendly, with the options of stopping at the [[Rinaldi Ceroni Botanical Herb Garden]] or simply raising your eyes to admire the view: the 12 layers that accumulated to create the Monte della Volpe testify to sedimentary cycles dating back to when the Strait of Gibraltar closed and the waters of the Mediterranean evaporated.

This is a habitat starring very different players, such as birds of prey – like peregrine falcons, honey buzzards and harrier eagles – which populate the cliffs and 19 species of bat which find one of their Italian sanctuaries in the 200 caves that punctuate these chalk hills.

The village of [[Borgo Tossignano]] – dominated by the ruins of the fortress perched on the ridge – is where mankind’s interaction with the chalk hills is most marked; indeed, having arrived here, only one, final obstacle remains before returning to Riolo, namely the ascent to Gallisterna (9 km at 2.6%) in a succession of gentle ups and downs.

Places of interest

Riolo Terme / Grotta della Tanaccia cave / Brisighella / Mount Mauro and the Parish Church of Santa Maria in Tiberiaco / village of Casola Valsenio / Botanical Herb Garden / Ruins of the fortress of Tossignano

"COMACCHIO VALLEYS" ROUTE


"COMACCHIO VALLEYS" ROUTE 146 kilometres - Easy
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The short climb up Via Giovannina (800 metres at 3.5%) then gives way to an entirely flat ride as far as Comacchio

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A bike ride in the Italian Camargue, in one of the lesser-known parts of the country, which is more physically inaccessible than the map would suggest.

The bicycle is the best means of appreciating the remoteness of the [[Valli di Comacchio valleys]] series of wetlands and lagoons and the Po delta habitat compared to the major Italian routes.

This route starts in Riolo Terme and finishes in Comacchio, and features a single obstacle at the point where the cyclist climbs a slope of the Serra hill, along Via Giovannina. On reaching the top, after an 800-metre climb at 3.5%, the road opens up, leading to a long straight which, following the Santerno river, leads into the heart of the [[Bassa Romagna]] area, passing through Bagnara and skirting Sant’Agata before heading north-east towards [[Alfonsine]] and the course of the Rhine.

The landscape is more linear than ever, yet in constant and imperceptible transformation, with an agitated past and an evolving present. Upon reaching the Rhine, cyclists find themselves crossing what was once the Po of Primaro, the main course of the River Po in Roman times, when its mouth was just 17 kilometres north of Ravenna.

This route, having joined the Valli di Comacchio wetlands shortly after the village of Anita, follows the thread of history between the wetland, to the east – one of the most important in Europe and beloved by birdwatchers, who can effortlessly observe flamingos, storks, swans, cranes, herons and spoonbills – and the drained Mezzano valley, to the west, also once covered with water and now one of Italy’s main areas free from human settlement. It is no coincidence that the landscape leading to [[Comacchio]] also provided the backdrop to perhaps the greatest classic among Italian horror films, The House with Laughing Windows (La casa dalle finestre che ridono), directed by the great Pupi Avati (in the town, visitors can spot various locations where its scenes were shot). However, the habitat of the [[Po Delta Regional Park]] is far from ghostly, and is, in fact, one of Italy’s fastest-transforming landscapes, where the struggle between land and water is constant and visible and where the sea will make its presence increasingly felt in the coming decades. This phenomenon also has positive sides; indeed, certain species will arrive from the Adriatic Sea whose passage which any birdwatcher would want to record. For the white or Dalmatian pelican, we will have to wait a little longer, while naturalists maintain that, for the sea eagle ray, it is not a question of ‘if’ but of ‘when’.

Places of interest

Comacchio / Comacchio Valleys / Po Delta Regional Park / Mezzano Valley

"RABBI VALLEY - ROCCA DELLE CAMINATE CASTLE" ROUTE


"RABBI VALLEY - ROCCA DELLE CAMINATE CASLTE" CIRCULAR ROUTE 109 kilometres - Medium difficulty
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The short but steep ascents to Predappio Alta and the Rocca delle Caminate castle, concentrated into a few kilometres, are notches on a route comprising, for the most part, a long series of gentler ups and downs over the foothills

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If there is one climb that testifies more than any other to the exertions of the champions of the golden age of cycling in Romagna, it is the one leading to the Rocca delle Caminate castle.

This is where Vito Ortelli, Giuseppe Minardi, Aldo Ronconi and Ercole Baldini came to contend with what was one of the first asphalt surfaced ascents in Romagna, a primacy it would keep almost to itself for many years.

The climb, indeed, connects the town of Predappio to what was one of Mussolini’s residences during the Fascist period.

Those toiling, today, up its 18 narrow hairpin bends, covering 3.9 kilometres at an average incline of 6%, may find it hard to imagine that cyclists used to find better conditions here than on almost all other roads, and yet, for a long time, it was so.

The road to Predappio is the same one that those champions pedalled hundreds of times during their training. From [[Faenza]] (reached from Riolo passing via Tebano), the road heads towards Villagrappa, [[Castrocaro Terme]] and [[Pieve Salutare]], and cyclists ride for many kilometres along quiet, rural roads, surrounded by vineyards, in the land of some of Emilia-Romagna’s best-known [[wineries]]. Before arriving at the base of the slope up to the Rocca delle Caminate castle, another, shorter but even sharper climb must be undertaken: an ascent of just 2.3 kilometres with an average incline of 8.3%, with highs of 12%, which, from the Montemaggiore turning, quickly leads to Predappio Alta, a perfectly preserved hilltop village, the climb ending literally in the central square. The nearby castle, which dominates the valley, is one of the most easily recognisable buildings in this part of Romagna. What is unrecognisable compared to how it must once have looked, however, is the Rocca delle Caminate, a castle originally built around the year 1000 and repeatedly damaged over the centuries until the earthquake of 1870 reduced it to ruins. In the 1920s, due to a decision that still makes art historians shudder, the castle was subsequently rebuilt in the vaguely medieval style it retains today.

From here, the route makes its way to the hamlet of San Lorenzo in Noceto, where a short, flattish stretch leads to the edge of the plain, passing through Vecchiazzano, Villagrappa and the Faenza countryside, and back to Riolo Terme. The final challenge of the day is the Vernelli climb: 800 metres at an average incline of 10%, with highs of 15%.

Places of interest

Faenza / Castrocaro Terme spa town and renaissance Terra del Sole / Predappio Alta hamlet and Castle / Rocca delle Caminate castle / Vineyards in the countryside between Faenza and Forlì

"SAMBUCA PASS" ROUTE


"SAMBUCA PASS" RIDE LOOP 101,4 kilometres - Medium difficulty
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A journey through the more Tuscan part of Romagna, where the Apennines become almost alpine, in the home of Italy’s most damned poet. The route leading to the Sambuca Pass is an ode to cycling as close to the heavens as it comes, namely on ascents typical of the Alps but also to be found here in the Apennines.

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The Sambuca Pass is one of these; indeed, this is where professional cyclists based in the Faenza area of Romagna used to come to ‘test their legs’ in preparation for the Dolomites stages of the Giro d’Italia and the Alpine stages of the Tour de France.

The climb measures 10 kilometres and is almost all relatively steady, with the exception of a few hairpin bends which do not excessively disrupt the average gradient of 5.9%. The ascent to the Pass, at an altitude of 1080 metres, is marked by breathtaking views which accompany cyclists from the moment they leave Palazzuolo behind them.

The return to the Lamone Valley is marked by a brief climb to Prato all’Albero, then continuing up to the Colla Pass. Here, the ode becomes a sonnet, specifically the one constituting the human material that comprises the Orphic Chants, the sole work published during his lifetime by the poet Dino Campana.

The poetry of the Marradi-born Campana, even now it is included in anthologies, remains untameable. Word by word, the Orphic Songs compose that human parable featuring himself in a tormented love story with Sibilla Aleramo – the places where passion sparked between the two are still the object of pilgrimages – and then in frequent admissions to psychiatric institutions, from which he invariably attempted to escape (one such failed flight attempt appears to have resulted in the injuries that caused his death, in 1832, at the age of just 36).

Campana’s short life has thus far only been partially researched, mainly due to his habit of taking long trips, covering much of Europe and perhaps also Argentina, accounts of which are incomplete. What is certain is that there is not a metre of the paths around Marradi that he did not cross during the walks that punctuated his days.

To come closer to that short but straight life, all one need do is move a few metres off the main road down to Brisighella. From there, the route leads once more to Riolo Terme via the Calbane Pass: 3.5 km at an average gradient of 5.1%.

Places of interest

Village of Casola Valsenio / Parish Church of Sant'Apollinare / Village of Palazzuolo sul Senio / Badia di Susinana monastery / Town of Marradi / Fountain and pools on the Lamone river, Crespino / Monumental oak in Ghiozzano, Fognano / Parish Church of Tho / Village of Brisighella / Grotta della Tanaccia cave

"CARNEVALE PASS" ROUTE


"CARNEVALE PASS" RIDE LOOP 79.6 kilometres - Medium difficulty
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The Carnevale Pass, a medium-long and fairly bicycle-friendly ascent, is the only true obstacle of the day in a route in which the valleys provide general ups and downs.

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The route, whose colourful name is synonymous with the carnival celebrated in Mediterranean Europe as a well as in New Orleans and South America, is actually a non-religious pilgrimage in honour of the handful of days which, in 1849, projected Romagna into the modern world. Indeed, while, in Philadelphia, everything speaks of the American War of independence, the Italian Risorgimento movement, which led to the Unification, counts this corner of the Apennines among its open-air temples; a land where the memory of Garibaldi’s passage is still very much alive. A hero of two worlds, he arrived here in 1849 after escaping the collapse of the new Roman Republic, created by Giuseppe Mazzini but surviving just a few months at the end of the two-year European revolution.

This route follows the Carnevale Pass, walking the tightrope of what was then the border between the territories of Florence and Rome and which, during the first half of the 19th century, witnessed the leadership, in turn, of the first Italian Republic presided over by Napoleon (to the north, in the Emilia-Romagna region), then the French Empire (on the Tuscan side) and, finally, the short-lived Roman Republic.

The border lies a short way beyond the village of Casola Valsenio, after the [[Parish Church of Sant'Apollinare]], rebuilt in the early 20th century on foundations stretching back in time to the Romanesque style.

Arrival in Tuscany is announced by the [[Badia di Susinana]], just below the village of Palazzuolo, a monastic complex dating back to the 11th century where Maghinardo Pagani, lord of these lands and mentioned in Dante’s Divine Comedy, was buried in the early 14th century.

The Carnevale Pass, which links Palazzuolo to the town of Marradi, is bicycle-friendly: 4.8 kilometres at an average gradient of 5.7%, with long stretches running through the middle of the woods, alternating with beautiful views over the Senio and Lamone valleys.

It is unclear which route Garibaldi took when fleeing from Ravenna (where his wife, Anita, had just lost her life) to Follonica, although he certainly passed through Modigliana and Palazzuolo and may, in between, have followed the paths that now connect Popolano, Valnera, Mount Gamberaldi and Gruffieto.

The return to Romagna is once again marked by Lord Maghinardo Pagani and the castles on which that era left its mark, such as those of [[San Martino in Gattara]] and [[San Cassiano]], on which research is still in its early stages. From the town of [[Brisighella]], the route heads back towards Riolo Terme via the Calbane Pass: 3.5 km at an average gradient of 5.1%.

Places of interest

Parish Church of Sant'Apollinare / Village of Palazzuolo sul Senio / Town of Marradi / Hamlet of San Martino in Gattara / Ruins of the fortress of San Cassiano / Brisighella

‘WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP’ ROUTE


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Things to see

27 kilometres among the [[vineyards]] and [[wineries]] in a succession of ascents and descents that represent cycling at its very best – as seen in the cycling world championships – but also an ode to humanity’s lust for life, not least that portion of humanity that gathered on the hills of Riolo Terme on 27 September 2020 to witness the World Championship Road Race, won by the predestined French cyclist Julian Alaphilippe, who triumphed after the breathtaking chase to which the Flemish Wout Van Aert subjected him.

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The ascents to Mazzolano (2.7 kilometres at 6.1%, with gradients of 13%) and Gallisterna (2.7 kilometres at 6.4%, with a 1.4-kilometre stretch at 10.6%, topped off with killer highs of 15%) still bear the marks of that race, painted on the roads in the colours of the fans and champions who, even in the midst of 2020, one of the most difficult years in history, were determined to be here, coming from France, Belgium, Switzerland, Slovenia, Denmark and even as far afield as Australia, the United States, Japan, Colombia and Rwanda.

The climb to the Mazzolano peak, interspersed with a fast descent, and to the Gallisterna, reached after skirting [[Riolo]] and the citadel of the [[Thermal Baths]], are still punctuated by the writing on the road surface left by the fans, seeming to mark the rhythm of two ascents which, metre by metre, take the form of a non-religious pilgrimage; a tribute to that equilibrium of pedals and gears so perfect that it remains unchanged for over a century and which finds, in this part of Romagna, a number of followers with few parallels in the world.

The two climbs are hard, very hard. And yet cyclists need only raise their eyes above the road – something the gradients permit at many points – to suddenly realise they are pedalling along the divide between Emilia and Romagna, balanced atop a geological storm of [[gullies]] against the backdrop of the [[Vena del Gesso]] ridge. A setting in which the Rio Sanguinario river, which acts as a border between the provinces of Bologna and Ravenna, runs free towards the sea, accompanying the descent of cyclists who, having launched themselves towards the chequered flag of the circuit after conquering the Gallisterna peak, can rightfully claim that they have become part of the landscape.

Places of interest

Historic centre of Riolo Terme / Wineries / Racetrack

"DOZZA AND IMOLA" ROUTE


"DOZZA AND IMOLA" RIDE LOOP 117.42 kilometres - Difficult
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Things to see

The long ascent to the Paretaio Pass (7.8 kilometres at 5.7%) and the one carved out of the chalk leading to Monte della Pieve (8.3 kilometres at 5.7%) make this day, already filled with ups and downs, extremely challenging and of considerable mileage.

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Pietro Zangheri, Romagna’s greatest naturalist, had no doubt as to the boundaries of the land in which he was born: the Apennine ridge the south, the Adriatic Sea to the east, and the River Rhine to the north:

geographical borders dictated by topographic relief, unchangeable except over the course of several generations, on which agreement has always been unanimous.

It is more difficult to define the ‘western front’, which Zangheri aligned with the Sillaro river and which remains, to this day, the subject of fierce debate between those who would place Imola in Emilia – positioning the border along the Rio Sanguinario stream, scene of an atrocious battle between the peoples of Bologna and Ravenna – and those who consider it for all intents and purposes part of Romagna. This route to Dozza is the one that leads to the Emilia region in the simplest possible way, namely via a series of Apennine ups and downs that form a rugged and jagged route, in clear contrast to the flat one that the Via Aemilia Roman trunk road attempted to impose on the territory.

From Riolo Terme, the loop heads decisively in a southerly direction, towards the border with Tuscany and Palazzuolo sul Senio, then beginning the ascent to the Paretaio Pass: 7.8 kilometres at an average incline of 5.7%, leading to an altitude of nearly 900 metres. The road has very little motor vehicle traffic and is bordered by dense vegetation alternating with breathtaking views over the Senio and Santerno valleys. From here, the route descends towards Moraduccio (near the [[Fosso Canaglia waterfall]] and the ghost village of [[Castiglioncello]]) and the village of Castel del Rio, home to the [[Ponte degli Alidosi bridge]], then continuing towards Fontanelice and the ascent to Gesso. Despite the vicinity to the plain, the road still rises for 8.3 kilometres at an average gradient of 5.7%, with some sections at 10%. On reaching the summit, cyclists then get stuck into the final foothills of the Vena del Gesso ridge, with views of the well-known peaks of Monte dell’Acqua Salata to the east and Gesso to the west. The ascent is not yet over; indeed, before joining the Via Aemilia, the road climbs slightly up to [[Dozza]], a pretty hilltop village, considered by many the last outpost of Romagna, most famous for the [[Rocca Sforzesca]] fortress. The Church of the Assumption houses a painting by Palmezzano of the Madonna and Child with Saints John the Baptist and Margaret. The return to Riolo, notably, passes through [[Imola]] and the [[racetrack]], partially ascends to the hamlet of Bergullo, and travels through the Serra Pass.

Places of interest

Village of Casola Valsenio / Village of Palazzuolo sul Senio / Ghost village of Castiglioncello / Fosso Canaglia waterfall / Village of Castel del Rio and the Ponte degli Alidosi bridge / Village of Dozza and the Rocca Sforzesca castle and Church of the Annunciation / Imola / Imola racetrack

"LOWER ROMAGNA" ROUTE


"LOWER ROMAGNA" RIDE LOOP 81,5 kilometres - Easy
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Things to see

This tour of lowland ‘Bassa Romagna’ is almost entirely flat, with the sole exception of the Vernelli series of climbs.

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In order to appreciate the mania for cycling of the people of Romagna – particularly that most bicycle-mad branch that includes those who ride between Faenza and Lugo – it is more than sufficient to peruse the list of cycling champions born in this area. Indeed, the succession of the names of Giuseppe Minardi, Aldo Ronconi, Vito Ortelli, Davide Cassani, Roberto Conti and Fabiano Fontanelli on the roll of honour of Giro d’Italia and Tour de France stage wins reflects just a few chapters in this area’s cycling history which, like this route exploring Bassa Romagna, begins in the hills.

The road that descends from Riolo Terme in the direction of Castel Bolognese – and then down towards Solarolo, Bagnara di Romagna, [[Lugo]] and [[Bagnacavallo]], in an intricate pattern of rural roads conceived to avoid the major routes – is the same one covered on a daily basis by Alfredo Oriani, writer and one of the greatest cycling enthusiasts back in the late 19th century.

While his adventures covering hundreds of kilometres were almost unequalled in Europe, Oriani is far from the only one who measured the world in pedal strokes. Indeed, in Faenza and the surrounding area, the bicycle had already become so popular that the Mayor of the day issued a decree prohibiting its use.

At that point, none other than the Italian Touring Club joined the fight and, backed by Oriani – whose fatal attraction for the bicycle was second only to his passion for mayhem –, organised a public protest in June 1894 intended to pressure the local government into withdrawing the decree. Despite skirmishes that obliged the cavalry to intervene and escort the cyclists out of the city, the bicycle won the day.

At the point where the route once again heads for the hills, passing through the local town of [[Cotignola]], it leafs through a small yet important page in cycling history, testifying to the irrepressible and intense passion of the people of Romagna for the bicycle, when the ninth stage of the 2014 Giro d’Italia passed right through Cotignola. The pink caravan was literally stopped in its tracks by the fans in a peaceful invasion of the road to ply the riders with confectionery.

It is with this sensation in their legs that, at the end, after passing Faenza, cyclists tackle the Vernelli series of climbs – 800 metres at 10%, with highs of 15% – which seems unending after a day in the saddle but, on reaching the peak, rewards them with a breathtaking view over the Tebano [[vineyards]].

Places of interest

Riolo Terme / Scodellino watermill in Castel Bolognese / Lugo / Piazza Nuova in Bagnacavallo / Faenza

"ANCIENT GULLIES" ROUTE


"ANCIENT GULLIES" RIDE LOOP 69.3 kilometres - Medium difficulty
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Things to see

An average-length route but nevertheless a challenging day due to the succession of steep climbs dug out of the gullies, the only respite from which is provided by the section skirting the historic centre of Faenza.

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This route is a tribute to geology and the perennial action of the rain on the Apennine slopes, excavating the clay and unveiling the chalky truth that runs through Italy from north to south for a thousand kilometres.

The gullies play a starring role in roads in which human engineering is obliged to bow to the coordinates established by nature, tracing a route that blends vineyards, fortresses and castles in the signature style of a landscape only superficially touched by the advent of industrialisation.

The [[Sangiovese]] – Romagna’s number one grape variety – still reigns supreme over the hills that open up on either side of the road leading to the medieval village of Brisighella via the Calbane Pass (3.6 km at an average incline of 5%).

The fortress of Riolo Terme and the [[Torre del Marino]] tower are the prelude to a succession of castles that continues uninterrupted from Brisighella and its [[Venetian fortress]].

These hills provided fertile ground for anyone seeking materials to build forts; indeed, from the peak of the Carla Pass (1.2 kilometres at 9.2%, with highs of 12%), these can be admired in an almost 360º panorama. On one side are Mount [[Rontana]] and [[Mount Mauro]] – where the vegetation conceals the ruins of the fortresses – and, on the other, Mount [[Castellaccio della Pietramora]] and, a little further south, the Ceparano mountain on whose summit the castle, the focus of archaeological excavations and still in an excellent state of preservation, is semi-concealed by vegetation.

Here, the local Spungone stone was the material used for building, quarried from an outcrop as rugged as the climb from Moronico, which ascends towards Pietramora for 5 kilometres at an incline of 5.1%, made extremely challenging by the midday sun and a long section ranging from 10 to 14%.

The rode is relentless: the ‘vertical wall’ of Via Croce – 900 metres at an average of 11.2%, with two sections at 15% – gives no opportunities to get your breath back. From San Mamante, the route follows a short uphill section towards Oriolo, through the land of the [[Centesimino]], a grape variety not grown anywhere else, on 21 hectares belonging to just eight wineries. The level stretch that passes under the city walls of [[Faenza]] precedes another climb towards Castel Raniero and the farms of La Berta. The day is topped off by the flattish stretch towards the hamlet of Pideura and the Vernelli climbs (800 metres at 10% with highs of 15%).

Places of interest

Riolo Terme / Village of Brisighella / Mount Castellaccio della Pietramora and nearby castles (Rontana, Ceparano and Monte Mauro) / Oriolo wineries / Faenza / Castel Raniero wineries

"UPPER SANTERNO, MUGELLO AND UPPER SENIO" ROUTE


"UPPER SANTERNO, MUGELLO AND UPPER SENIO" RIDE LOOP 126,65 kilometres - very difficult
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Things to see

Two long, steady climbs, typical of the Upper Apennines, trace a route that seems almost Alpine, in which the Prugno Pass is merely a prologue to the Raticosa and the Paretaio passes: a pure ascent of over 50 kilometres.

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A venture into the world of writer and cycling enthusiast Alfredo Oriani, in the wake of his early forays at the dawn of the saga of the bicycle, when the roads were unsurfaced, the gears non-existent, the routes precarious and the pedals fixed.

Those were years when a visionary could dream of taming that ‘horse with pedals’ and making it a means of transport on which to travel Italy.

This route, which climbs up through the valley from Riolo Terme towards Casola, cannot fail to pay tribute to him, passing the house, now the [[Cardello]] museum, where Oriani lived for much of his life, overlooking the main road not far from [[Valsenio Abbey]], another must-see.

However, it is not until you point your wheels in the direction of the Prugno pass (5.6 km at 5.9%) – shortly after passing the [[Rinaldi Ceroni Botanical Herb Garden]] (one of Romagna’s two botanical gardens) – and Fontanelice that you truly immerse yourself in the world of Alfredo Oriani, in the wake of his 600-kilometre journey of 1897, when the bicycle as we now know it – with pedalling motion transmitted to the back wheel – had existed for just 12 years.

During that 600-kilometre adventure – which Oriani rounded up to 1000, surrendering to his distinctive tendency to hyperbole – the writer should not have been alone; his travelling companion, however, did not turn up at the start, leaving him to climb and descend the mountains and hills or Romagna and Tuscany on his own.

On arrival at the village of Castel del Rio, home to the distinctive [[Ponte degli Alidosi bridge]], the road begins to climb towards the Raticosa Pass: 22 km at 3.6%. During this long, steady and almost traffic-free ascent, having established the necessary rhythm, it is the mind that sets sail on the green ocean of the surrounding vegetation. The [[Sasso di San Zanobi]], a fragment of oceanic crust that has escaped subduction (what the geologists call an ‘ophiolite’), welcomes you back to the Santerno Valley. Situated almost on the western boundary of Romagna, this is a place where everyone born in the area goes at least once in their lifetime.

After [[Firenzuola]] – the most proudly Florentine municipality in Tuscan Romagna, as its name suggests – the Paretaio Pass, another long, steady climb of 10 km at 5.9%, leads on to Palazzuolo, Casola Valsenio and Riolo Terme.

Places of interest

Il Cardello Museum / Valsenio Abbey / Rinaldi Ceroni Botanical Herb Garden / Ponte degli Alidosi bridge / Sasso di San Zanobi rock formation / Village of Palazzuolo sul Senio

"VECCHIA SELICE" RIDE LOOP


"VECCHIA SELICE" RIDE LOOP 104.5 kilometres - Easy
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Things to see

The climb to the Mazzolano peak is the only true obstacle in this day, devoted to exploring the plain, before returning to Riolo Terme via the Caudine Forks of Vernelli.

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There is not a single explanation for Romagna’s unique passion for cycling which, particularly in the triangle between Imola, Faenza and Lugo, can boast a number of enthusiasts with few parallels in the world.

In this area, absolutely everyone has at least one racing bike in their family; one of many because the root of the bicycle in this area has a name and date of birth, namely the World Cycling Championships of 1 September 1968, contested, here, in Imola, on a circuit pre-dating the racetrack now named after Enzo and Dino Ferrari (as occurred more than half a century later for the 2020 edition) and on the Tre Monti (or ‘three peaks’) circuit.

The World Championship won by Adorni (an almost home-grown cyclist, from Emilia), a genuine watershed in Romagna’s passion for the bicycle, saw tens of thousands of fans flock to the roadsides for a chance to see a succession of cycling heroes, like Eddy Merckx, Felice Gimondi, Raymond Poulidor, Jacques Anquetil, Rik Van Looy, Gianni Motta and Johny Schleck (father of the more famous Andy and Frank) in person.

This route, devoted to the Vecchia Selice locality for the first few kilometres, deviates only slightly from that course; indeed, from [[Riolo Terme]], it climbs up through the Mazzolano Pass – 2.4 km at an average incline of 6.5%, the brow of the hill coinciding with the Rio Sanguinario stream which divides the provinces of Ravenna and Imola – then continuing to Imola after crossing the [[racetrack]].

From there, the route is a long declaration of love for the plain which, with its evenness, levels the road to that perpetual movement of legs and drive train that defines cycling. The route then heads towards Mordano and Bubano – the beating hearts of the historic Coppa Placci race – and then on to Massa Lombarda, Conselice, and Ducato di Fabriago [[with its distinctive castle]].

This is a landscape still visibly showing the boundaries of [[Roman centuriation]], a rural land division system whose legacies include long, straight roads like the one leading uniformly from Bagnacavallo all the way to [[Faenza]]. Before completing the loop back to Riolo Terme, there is a final obstacle to overcome, namely the Vernelli series of climbs: 800 metres at 10%, with highs of 15%.

Places of interest

Imola racetrack / Ducato di Fabriago Castle / Roman centuriation / Piazza Nuova in Bagnacavallo / Faenza

"MOUNT BUSCA AND MOUNT TREBBIO" RIDE LOOP


"MOUNT BUSCA AND MOUNT TREBBIO" RIDE LOOP 113.7 kilometres - Difficult
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Things to see

The ascents to the Parish Church of Tho, Mount Trebbio and Mount Busca, tackled in succession, constitute the three major obstacles in a day entirely dedicated to climbs.

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All the people of Romagna know it as ‘the Mount Busca volcano’. The fiery fountain at the origin of the eternal flames that burn on the peak of the mountain between Tredozio and Portico is one of the distinctive features of the Romagna Apennines, an iconic place where anyone born between Imola and Gabicce must go at least once in their life.

[[Mount Busca]] is, of course, not actually a volcano but an outlet of natural gas which people have, in the past, attempted to exploit for commercial purposes, with results that are best forgotten.

This route climbs Mount Busca (6 km at an average gradient of 6.2%) and passes not far from the burning fountain, which is accessible on foot. However, this pilgrimage to the eternal flames begins much earlier, with two consecutive ascents leading from Riolo first to [[Brisighella]] and then to Modigliana. They consist of the Calbane Pass (3.6 km at an average incline of 5%) and the long ascent leading from the Romanesque [[Parish Church of Tho]] to Modigliana (7.5 km, constantly immersed in vegetation, at an average incline of 5.2%).

Mount Busca – reached after passing through Modigliana and [[Tredozio]] – is only the second major obstacle of the day. After passing Rocca San Casciano, the road rises once again towards Mount Trebbio.

The climb – 6.4 kilometres at an average gradient of 6%, with several sections above 10% – is now etched into cycling history. Indeed, it was here, during the second stage of the 2006 Settimana Internazionale di Coppi e Bartali road race, that a very young Vincenzo Nibali launched the one-man attack that led him to cross the finish line in Faenza with his arms raised in the first victory of his professional career.

Now, just as it was then, after the pass the route heads towards Modigliana. The very steep descent, however, includes some gentle sections, making it possible to enjoy the view of the [[Rocca dei conti Guidi fortress]], highly unusual being vertically sectioned. Weakened by repeated earthquakes which led to the collapse of a considerable portion in the early 20th century, the fortress now appears intact or reduced to ruins depending on the angle from which you look at it.

Descending through the valley, at the level of the hamlet of Marzeno,the route heads towards Brisighella and Riolo Terme via the Carla Pass (1.2 km at an average gradient of 9.2%) and then the Calbane Pass (3.5 kilometres at 5.1%, notable for the hairpin bends on the Monticino road high above Brisighella). The final two challenges of the day.

Places of interest

Village of Brisighella / Parish Church of Tho / Town of Modigliana / Village of Tredozio / Fiery fountain of Mount Busca / Village of Portico / Town of Rocca San Casciano

"CASTROCARO CASTLE AND TERRA DEL SOLE" RIDE LOOP


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